Friday, May 7, 2021

The underwhelming jobs report

 The April jobs report is out and economists are underwhelmed. In a headline, Slate even called the report “shockingly bad.”

Economists had expected about a million new jobs and what they actually got was 266,000. With the economy starting to surge as we exit the pandemic, Americans should be going back to work so what went wrong?

There seem to be plenty of employers who are willing to hire, especially compared to this time last year. Almost everywhere I go, I see “help wanted” signs. My teenage son is looking for a summer job and frequently gets emails from companies that he has never contacted. This is definitely a jobseeker’s market.

Photo credit: Tim Mossholder/

My guess is that there are two problems. The first is that the extra $300 per week in unemployment payments for the pandemic do not expire until Labor Day. (The duration of unemployment benefits varies by state.) Although it short-sighted to do so, some workers will stay home and collect this money rather than restarting their careers and starting to establish seniority at a new company.

At least two states, South Carolina and Montana, are already starting to phase out the increased unemployment payments citing a “severe worker shortage” in the words of Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte. Other states may join in as more companies look for workers.

This is appropriate. I supported the pandemic relief bills and believe they were needed last year and last winter, but now is the time to start weaning workers off government checks.

The second reason is that many of the jobs being offered are not the jobs that people want. Many available jobs are in food service, hospitality, and retail, entry-level jobs that can be difficult and may not pay as much as the enhanced unemployment benefits.

In my son’s case, he has had a couple of restaurants offer him good jobs that pay more than minimum wage and would let him set his own schedule, but he's holding out for a retailer that he prefers. He can afford to wait. Not only does he have no rent or car payment but he already has a job that will last through the end of the school year. In the meantime, one of the restaurants often has to close its dining room due to lack of workers.

I would bet that there is a lot of this going on. Many people who have lost jobs over the past year are likely holding out for something better.

I still predict a strong recovery that President Biden’s economic agenda will not undermine. However, it does seem that some aspects of the recovery will take longer than others.

Some of the long-term unemployed may be people who are still afraid of COVID-19. Some of these people may have very good reasons for being cautious, but the data on effectiveness of vaccines in more and more encouraging.

I think it's time to start phasing out mitigations and mask mandates, although if individuals or private businesses want to wear masks or ask their customers to do so - or ask employees or customers to show proof of vaccination. I have no problem with that.

Ideally, an end to the mitigations would be tied to vaccinations. There are two good ways of doing this. One is to say that you are exempt if you have proof of vaccination. The other is to end local mandates when the area reaches a predetermined level of vaccinations.

I don't think we will reach herd immunity. Ever. As of this writing, the CDC reports that 45 percent of Americans have received at least one dose and 33 percent are fully vaccinated. The numbers increase with age, but vaccination rates are slowing.

Given the fact that many Americans won't get an annual booster (if you doubt this, look at how many don't get the second dose), it seems certain that COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time.

I think that the vaccines need to be made available to anyone who wants them, including children, and then we need to get back to normal. Variants such as the B.117 are both more virulent and more infectious so it is important to make the vaccines available to everyone.

Current vaccination levels are about as good as it's going to get due to vaccine fears from fake news and conspiracy theories. Ironically, that will prolong the threat of COVID and make the conspiracy fears become self-fulfilling.

Just pray that we can avoid dangerous mutations that evade vaccine-trained antibodies.

I haven’t said much about the move to replace Lynn Cheney with Elise Stefanik, but I think my opinions are clear.

I left the GOP when Donald Trump was nominated in 2016 and have not looked back. I had hoped that Trump’s humiliating loss in 2020 and shameful actions on January 6 would break his hold on the hearts and minds of Republicans, but the GOP’s relationship with Trump can be best described as “stuck on stupid” (although “I’m with stupid” is also apropos).

The Trumpists are notoriously bad vote counters so Cheney may retain her post as Mitt Romney avoided a censure vote in Utah recently. However, the real goal is to intimidate other soft-on-Trump Republicans into silence. On that, the Trumpers will be successful.

The purge of non-Trump Republicans may fail but the message that anti-Trump conservatives are not welcome in the GOP is eminently clear.

For conservatives like me, the message received. To the remaining Republicans I say, “I hope you like losing.”

The only people I’ve seen mention Birthing People Day are on the right. ‘Nuff said.

From the Racket

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